Radio Waves: Tallest Structure in Italy, Suggestion to Save AM, Online Radio Exams in Australia, and a Letter From Friends of ABC

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Paul Evans, Mike Terry, and Michael Bird for the following tips:


The tallest structure in Italy is a remote radio transmitter in Sicily. (Atlas Obscura)

WHEN TALKING ABOUT THE TALLEST structures in the world, one often thinks of skyscrapers above modern cities, but radio transmitters in remote locations also reach dizzying heights.

Italy is famous for its many architectural marvels built over the millennia, but its tallest building (a sleek, modern structure in Milan) is only 758 feet tall. The title of the tallest overall structure goes to a radio transmitter on the Sant’Anna hill near the town of Caltanissetta, in Sicily. (In between the two are a number of transmitters and power plant chimneys.) This antenna has a height of 938 feet, and was built by the national public broadcasting company, RAI, between 1949 and 1951. At the time it was also the tallest structure in all of Europe, until 1965 when a transmitting station in the United Kingdom was inaugurated.[]

Here’s a suggestion for how to save AM radio (Los Angeles Daily News)

Last week, I wrote a little about streaming audio and how, with the use of smart speakers, smartphones, and plain old computer streaming, the possibility of internet radio essentially replacing traditional broadcast radio.

This week I want to travel to both the past and one of broadcast radio’s possible futures, spurred on by the ideas presented last week, my absolutely illogical love of AM radio, and a letter to the editor that I read online at radioworld.com.

AM radio broadcasting is almost a century old in the United States – numerous stations in Los Angeles, including KHJ (930 AM), KFI (640 AM) and KNX (1070 AM) will celebrate 100 years of broadcasting in two years. That’s an impressive feat, especially considering the technology is essentially the same as it was in 1922.

As I mentioned last week, digital HD Radio, considered for a time as the savior of both AM — due to higher fidelity — and FM — due to potential higher fidelity and extra stations — just hasn’t made the impact many had hoped. For various reasons, many AM stations have turned off the HD signal, even while FMs continue to use it, and consumers don’t seem all that interested in either. But as I said last week, with smart speakers, what’s the point? And a related question comes up: is broadcast AM radio just a dead technology?

Christopher Boone thinks he has the answers. No, AM is not dead. But if you really want to improve it, bring back a technology that already “failed” … AM stereo.[]

Online remote exam sessions in Australia (Southgate ARC)

VEA (Volunteer Examiners Australia) is pleased to advise we are currently able to perform online remote exam sessions for both AMC and ARRL VE Examinations.

VEA has AMC Level 3 examiners that can conduct remote online examinations.

Also, the ARRL VEC has entrusted us by extension the FCC, to be examiners for FCC-issued license via remote online examinations, a volunteer examiner, must ensure the exam conducted fairly and that there is the same level of integrity as there would be for an in-person examination.

Candidates need to be aware there are conditions and eligibility in registering to do an ARRL online remote examination, e.g. living in a remote location, or the candidate is physically impaired to attend an exam session.

VEA does run bi-monthly AMC and ARRL VE exam sessions during the year,
so if you are interested, visit our website www.vea.org.au complete the online registration form.

VEA currently have AMC and ARRL VE examiners in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia.

VEA looks forward in supporting the ham radio community in providing this valuable service to both AMC and ARRL VEC.

73 from Peter VK3FN

Wireless Institute of Australia[]

An open letter to the Prime Minister from ABC Friends and supporters (ABC Friends)

Posted in Latest news from ABC Friends on 28 June 2020

ABC Friends have written an open letter to the Prime Minister in the wake of the recent staff and funding cuts.

Dear Mr Morrison,

I write on behalf of many angry Australians who want to know why your government continues to undermine Australian public broadcasting with ongoing funding cutbacks at the same time as the commercial media sector is favoured.

Your recent statement that “there have been no cuts to the ABC” sadly reminds us of Tony Abbott’s similar bold election promise in 2013, yet this was followed by major cutbacks in his first Budget as Prime Minister. Clearly in our current media environment there are facts and ‘alternative’ facts, it all depends on the presenter and the audience.

Many of us are more inclined to rely on information from your ABC Board Chair, Ita Buttrose, who said in her 2019 Forward to the Annual Report – “our task has been made harder by the imposition of the three year indexation freeze which comes on top of a $50 million a year cut now embedded in our base.”

We see the recently announced Five Year Plan as a brave attempt by the Managing Director, David Anderson, to live within your governments funding allocation, but obviously further staff cuts and downgrading of ABC services and programs is an inevitable outcome of reduced funding.

We all appreciate that governments rely on a degree of political spin to make their decisions seem more palatable, but do you seriously expect the community to believe that an ABC Managing Director would deliberately retrench so many staff and downgrade services and programmes if the ABC Budget was adequate?

We expected more of your leadership because you have a responsibility to act on our behalf, as ABC shareholders to enable the ABC to fulfil parliamentary approved obligations under its Charter. The Federal Government acts as caretaker of all our national institutions and in this regard the ABC ranks highly with the Parliament and the High Court in protecting the interests of all Australians.

Chair of the ABC Board, Ita Buttrose has consistently tried to work with you and your Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, to get a realistic re-assessment of the ABC Budget to meet the demands of a changing media environment and national emergencies. Yet these genuine efforts by both Board and Management have been repeatedly ignored. Furthermore, there has been a quite calculated misrepresentation of budgetary analysis since 2014 assuming that official promotion of fake news will provide an effective distraction from the reality of past and current government decision making, which has resulted in an ongoing 10% budget reduction.

Over the past six years the ABC has been the target of funding cuts, various enquiries, political attack and even a police raid. You can not be surprised that Australians are outraged about the latest announcement this week which will culminate in further job losses, valued services and Australian content. You regularly advocate protection of jobs and your COVID-19 employment protection initiatives are admirable. Yet successive Coalition administrations have caused the loss of 1250 ABC professional staff.

Can you explain to us why you are so determined to downgrade the ABC, which is a valued national treasure supported by over 80% of Australians? We understand that you are regularly lobbied by the Murdoch American News Empire and other commercial media interests, which are ideologically opposed to public broadcasting. Furthermore, we know that some members of your cabinet are members of the Institute of Public Affairs, which advocates privatisation of the ABC. However, ABC Friends would respectfully remind you that, as Prime Minister, your first loyalty is to the Australian people and our public institutions.

As a national organisation we have been overwhelmed by expressions of public concern about the way the ABC is being treated. So many comments express ongoing frustration that many of our elected representatives seem incapable of recognising the ABC as an essential public service on which Australians depend. We have received hundreds of letters and comments which we will be collating for public release, but here is just one example to offer you some insight into how Australians feel about the continued assault on the ABC.

“I am shocked, then saddened, then disgusted, then outraged by the governments attack on the ABC. The Federal Government should be creating jobs instead of destroying high quality ‘clever country’ jobs. Prime Minister Morrison led a government that was unique in bringing together differing interests across Australia to benefit the nation and lead us out of disaster. But now? The attack on the ABC is a fundamental attack by the Morrison Government on its claim to govern in the national interest.”

We urge you to reconsider your government’s responsibilities to the ABC by conducting immediate meaningful negotiations with the Ms Buttrose and Mr Anderson to plan a way forward to restore ABC funding. This discussion should include a commitment in the October Budget to recognise ABC staff and services as essential in post COVID-19 planning .

We look forward to a fresh approach to public broadcasting policy and can assure you such commitment will be very much welcomed by the Australian public.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret Reynolds
National President
ABC Friends

P.O.Box 3620
Manuka ACT 2603[]


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8 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Tallest Structure in Italy, Suggestion to Save AM, Online Radio Exams in Australia, and a Letter From Friends of ABC

  1. Mangosman

    The only way to save AM radio is to move to DRM in the 54 – 88 MHz band which was used for analog TV channels 2 – 6 and is virtually deserted. DRM in that band is in 100 kHz channel and the signal is contained within it. Since there is no other broadcasts in this band and all broadcasts are in the same modulation the power will only be limited by the proximity of another broadcaster on the same channel, the size of the broadcaster’s budget. DRM is also capable of repeaters in the licence area on the same channel for black spots. The available data rates of a single transmitter are 40 kbit/s all digital AM HD, 96 kbit/s all digital FM HD and DRM in band 1 186 kbit/s So the sound quality is much better than AM and can include surround sound, along with slideshows, indexed text service of upto 65 k pages, Emergency warnings which are only heard by those affected and more traffic data for navigation systems than FM.
    There are more channels available than all AM and FM channels used now.
    The problems of AM are;
    An AM broadcast uses half of each of the adjacent channels which causes a 10 kHz whistle particularly at night and interference from the broadcasters in adjacent channels. This has caused receiver manufacturers to limit high frequency audio to much less than 5 kHz.
    AM contains a carrier which contains no sound information and is between 67 – 100 % of the transmitted power. The sound power is up to 33 % of the transmitted power, where as for DRM there is no carrier.
    Poor sound quality, from noise, phasing distortion at the edges of coverage areas particularly at night, most receivers have little treble sound. There is much more noise in the frequency band used than for higher frequencies.
    AM stereo is not the solution. The FCC left it upto the market to select which system which killed it. Adding stereo to DRM only requires around 3 kbit/s which will fit into the 40 kbit/s available. DRM now uses the new xHE-AAC compression which gives much better sound quality at very low bit rates. The digital signal will be noise/interference free without the distortions of AM particularly at night.
    It’s only virtue is the medium frequency band can give large coverage areas, but DRM in band 1 can with the antenna on a tall tower with a high gain antenna.

    The Government and the FCC needs to change the rules to improve program quality. Things like competition from a government broadcaster, which is common elsewhere. Studio location within the licence area, control on networking, the number of broadcasters in an individual licence area……

    Reply
    1. Ron F

      > The only way to save AM radio is to move to DRM in the 54 – 88 MHz band …

      Then it’s not AM radio, is it?

      It would even lack the existing advantages of AM radio i.e. cheap receivers and pretty reliable coverage over fairly long distances from a single transmitter.

      Reply
  2. DavidP

    When I had a good AM Stereo receiver in my car I was always forgetting I didn’t have an FM station on. When it was good it was very good. But then I’d go under a bridge, get closer to power lines, the sun goes down….and I’ve got a bad signal. No one in 2020 is putting up with this — end of story. That there are AM stations attempting service with a 4 watt overnight signal is a sign that AM should have been on a road to correction 40 years ago.

    AM Stereo is fine, but it’s not going to save anything. It’s possible that a digital service may help, but HD Radio sounds like crap on AM when it comes to music. DRM might be better, but to be honest the push to save AM is decades ago — Limbaugh and sports saved it for a number of years but that’s in the past.

    You can keep hoping for 1940 to come back when it comes to the AM band, or you can aggressively push for digital experiments. Then you show how easy it is to add it to your existing setup — all the while having something worth listening to (spoiler alert: It ain’t sports, right-wing talk, or classic rock)….and if HD Radio thought it was a good idea, throw it away.

    Reply
  3. Des Walsh

    (1) Caltanisetta – that brings back memories. When I was young, in the days of Radio Eireann on 566kHz an Italian transmitter was blamed for interference , Irish TX was 100kW , the Italian 25kW , I think, Radio Eireann produce an information sheet to make a home-made frame aerial to null out the interfering Italian signal. Very few transistor portable sets in use then . That dated me !
    (2) Regarding Stereo medium wave radio , I gather that it greatly interferes with adjacent channels. Why is not AM with independent sidebands used, ie LSB for left-hand and USB for right-hand audio ? Surely with modern digital tuning the receiver could be locked to the carrier . Ordinary AM receivers would just produce mono audio. I have never seen ISB AM promoted , except for commercial links , etc .
    Des Walsh

    Reply
  4. Rob

    Stereo to rescue AM radio? Really? Eh, advice from a legacy media source (with a very poor web presence, I might add) on how to save another media format is worth exactly what broadcasters have paid for it, i.e., nothing. Suggesting three decade-old technology “upgrades” gets us nowhere.

    What will save AM radio? Improved content. What are the medium’s inherent strengths? Regional coverage and widespread receiver ownership. Start from those key elements, understand how they can work together, build from there.

    Reply
  5. Ron F

    The L.A. Daily News really don’t want people reading their site, do they? Kept kicking me out because it thought I had an adblocker (or maybe just because I’m not in the US?), and ‘encrypted’ it (shift25 or shift-1, depending how you count it) when I tried Reader view.

    For those who also can’t see it, I’ll summarise: “AM Stereo! It’s still good! All it takes is violating the bandplan to use extra-wide channels, and trusting in DSP to minimise noise! Oh, and programming something worth listening to …”

    Reply

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